4 Common ERP Project Management Problems and How to Mitigate Them

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Project managers run into many issues both large and small on projects and having a plan how to deal with them early on is the best way to minimize their impact on delivering the ERP system on time and within budget. Missed deadlines, missing functionality or conflicting business requirements (and the personalities fighting for them) and cost over runs are just some of the symptoms of the following 4 project management problems. 

Project Communications

Problem

ERP solutions are supposed to help increase information flow, but a critical threat to the success of a project is an absence of communication. Project stakeholders who take their time making decisions also play a role in this risk. 

Solution

The project management office is the pivot point for all communications to stakeholders in the organization. Make sure that everyone who is affected by the ERP project receives communication in proportion with how much they are affected by the project. Someone who’s entire job description is being re-written with the ERP project will receive far more communications than someone who receives occasional notifications from the system. All communications should also be sent with a timeline for response, decision, participation or feedback to keep the project on track.

Planning and Scheduling

Problem

ERP project deployments fail because organizational committees underestimate the extent of the work involved and produce project plans that have impractical timelines and leave little to no margin for error. Unknown delays can cause havoc in projects and missed milestones. 

Solution

There is always a critical path for every project and at some point that critical path will get delayed with realized project risks. Having planned for these risks in advance with project sponsors and in consultation with project team members, will reduce stress and unrealistic expectations for milestones. A poorly planned project will have everything do at the same time, dropped scope of features and functionality and everyone working overtime. A well planned project will be on time, with all scope delivered without panic.

Change Management

Problem

The user community plays a vital role in the success of an ERP system deployment and should not be ignored. ERP systems are designed to change the way people work in an organization and should make things easier and more integrated between departments. Without a planned approach to ERP deployment, employees will not be properly trained or know how the new ERP will affect them. 

Solution

Training and early communications with end users is vital for final acceptance and a smooth go live. When employees feel that they have been heard (early on in scope negotiation and fit/gap analysis), participate in testing and receive hands on training and documentation, then there will be less “I don’t know how to do that” on go live day. 

Formal Testing

Problem

Deploying any new software solution without formal testing almost guarantees failure right from the start. Incompatible applications or hardware, broken links, permission errors, and security vulnerabilities can all cause major issues with an ERP project. 

Solution

A testing strategy should be proportional to how important the system is to the organization. If the system is mission critical, then there should be unit, integrated, user acceptance testing and multiple rounds of practicing go live cutover. All data should be validated, security internal to the ERP as well as the server access should be reviewed and approved by a quality assurance team. Any integrations to external systems (banks, vendors, customers, couriers/carriers, warehouses, legacy systems etc) should be tested for data transfers in both directions. When the early stages of the project scope and business requirements were properly documented, understood and accounted for, then testing will be just a validation that everything is working as planned. 

There are many moving parts to a large ERP project but it all basically comes down to Scope, Time and Resources (people or dollars). When you change one, the other two are affected. It helps everyone early on when the project sponsors agree on and state up front which one is the priority….and they all can’t be the priority!

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Ian Campbell

Ian Campbell

About Me

I am a CPA with 20+ years experience implementing, upgrading and tuning financial systems from the small to the very large.

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